Let’s say you’re a mother who struggles with depression. You’re having trouble getting out of bed and your four-year-old wants to play with you. He has his blocks and cars laid out ready to go. But you’re not feeling up to engaging with him. If you have a mental health issue and you’re a parent, it can be challenging. Young children might not understand what you’re experiencing.
You may feel guilty about not being able to play with your son, but hear this: it’s not your fault. You’re doing the best that you can at this moment. Only you know what is true for you, and if you always do your best, you don’t need to waste time beating yourself up for something you a) can’t control and b) are trying your best to manage.
One of the most important things to remember when you’re living with a mental illness is to be kind to yourself, but keep working on managing it. Whether that means you’re in therapy with a counselor in person or online, your mental health matters the most. Remember that common analogy of placing the oxygen mask over your mouth before others.
Keep in mind there’s a difference between stress and a mental illness. Anxiety (for example) is a severe condition that can impact your ability to be present for your children. There are ways to handle anxiety and still be a wonderful parent. Explain to your children what you’re going through in an age-appropriate way. If you have a 10-year-old, you can tell them that you’re feeling anxious and you need to take a moment to breathe. Seeing you take care of yourself reinforces the importance of self-care habits. Your kids see that you are capable even in challenging moments. They may go on to model this behavior and grow up to be strong adults who can care for themselves despite their challenges.
Children understand more than you think. Suppose you’re a father who lives with obsessive compulsive disorder. Your 7-year-old daughter notices that you are checking to see if the door is locked multiple times. She doesn’t understand why, unless you tell her. It’s okay to tell her it’s hard for your brain to let go of things. Explain that you are trying your best, but not to worry. Everybody has something that is hard to deal with. Showing your kids that you also have flaws is empowering to them and makes them understand that they don’t have to be perfect; no one is.
We do the best that we can as parents to raise our children to be kind, understanding, and empathetic. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to be honest about who we are and what we’re going through. Remember to tell your children that it is not their responsibility to fix what you’re going through. However, when they are experiencing something challenging, they know they can come to you for support.
You don’t have to do this alone. You can manage your mental health and parenting with an online psychologist. Read about how they can help you: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/psychologists/are-online-psychologists-for-real/
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post and we have been compensated through BetterHelp.com.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.